Earlier this week, the President signed an executive order barring federal contractors from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. In a supposed civilized society with a separation of church and state, such a measure should be welcomed by all because anti-discrimination policies protect the rights of everyone.
For me, anti-discrimination laws transcend theology and personal opinion. I acknowledge that while I am a Christian, I am also a Christian who lives and who does commerce in a culture that is diverse– making certain rules for playing necessary. For starters, I don’t want a potential employer to be able to fire me simply because I am a Christian. Being a Christian is completely irrelevant to my ability to do a specific job and to be disqualified from employment on that basis, would be completely unfair. Anti-discrimination laws protect my right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” by ensuring my religious orientation cannot be used as a way to shut me out from competing in the public sector.
Regardless of my theology on human sexuality, I see anti-discrimination policies for the LGBT community the same way I see them for myself– they too have a right to compete in the public sector and have the right to hold jobs they are qualified for without an aspect of their identity disqualify them from working. It’s a little something we call…. fair.
You can’t fire me because I’m an Anabaptist, and I can’t fire you because of the gender you’re attracted to.
Really simple stuff that we should all say “this is fair and good for society” regardless of our particular theology on any given subject.
However, the new anti-discrimination policy for government contractors isn’t exactly being celebrated in our Christian community. Instead, many are crying that the sky is falling, that our religious liberties are under attack– you know, more “help, help, I’m being oppressed!” Monty Python type stuff.
Here’s what Michael Brown called the move by the White House:
“This was an outrageous act of discrimination against religion in the name of anti-discrimination—an act of bullying people of faith in the name of the prevention of bullying.”
So yeah, apparently we’re being “bullied” because in exchange for accepting government funds we have to agree not to fire people for being gay.
So listen– I think we as Christians need to set something straight before we go any further:
It’s not discrimination when we are prevented from doing the discriminating. It’s not persecution when we are prevented from doing the persecuting. It’s not bullying when we’re told that we can’t bully others.
It’s not any of those things.
In fact, we should actually be embarrassed that we even have to be told that it’s wrong to fire someone for these reasons. Your place of business is NOT the same thing as your church– if you want to accept government funds, you’ll have to play by a set of rules that keeps it fair for everyone. Both for you, and everyone else.
I’ve discussed the issue of the persecution complex here in the West, and nearly every time, some folks write to me and tell me how wrong I am– that yes, Christians are under attack and being persecuted. Whenever that happens and I ask for specific examples, I am almost always listed out examples of how we’re not allowed to persecute others.
But this isn’t persecution– it’s not even close.
I can’t help but think how self centered we’re going to look when we get to heaven and go through the awkward introductions in the persecuted section:
“Hi, my name is Peter. They crucified me on a cross upside down.”
“Hi, my name is Stephen. They smashed my head in with rocks.”
“Hi, my name is Polycarp. They tried to burn me at the stake but I didn’t catch on fire so they stabbed me to death”.
“Hi, my name is William Tyndale. They chocked me to death at the stake and then burned by body.”
“Hi, my name is Michael Brown. They told me that if I wanted my business to be able to accept government funds that I couldn’t fire people simply because of their sexual orientation.”
You see? It doesn’t actually line up with the experiences of the Christians who have come before us– Christians who actually were bullied and persecuted.
Let’s be honest: I think we’re going to look a little silly in eternity if we keep up this persecution and “I’m being bullied” stuff. For those of us poised to lead the next generation of Jesus followers into a better cultural expression of Christianity, one of the first things we need to do is to stop pretending we’re victims. It’s not attractive. It’s not helping. It’s not even true.
One doesn’t become the victim of bullying when they’re told that they can’t make others the victim of bullying. That doesn’t even make sense.
Instead, let us embrace the fact that we actually do live in a country where we are both free to practice our religion but also where there are certain rules in the public sector that keep things fair for everyone, and that these foundational rules are actually good and right.